Husband and wife filmmakers Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid cited the surrealist works of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali as inspiration for their short film Meshes of the Afternoon. That right there was the first red flag for me, and watching the film, it was all I needed. This is surrealist to its very core, a genre I’d hoped I had done away with after I finished off Bunuel’s early work. It appears I was misguided, but oh well; this was only 13 minutes long or so, so I can sit through one more bout of weird, incoherent filmmaking… right?
You want story? YOU WANT STORY?! Well, good sir or madam, this is a surrealist film, which means you won’t be getting any of those trivial and quaint notions like story or plot. I’d add narrative to that, but I can’t discount the film completely in that regard; just because I couldn’t discern it didn’t mean there wasn’t potentially a narrative somewhere in there. But yeah, this is pretty much a series of scenes and images that only barely have anything to do with each other, but as the previous sentence hinted at, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that there was actually a line of thinking, a thought process that ran through the film, as foggy as it was to me. This is one that I feel will end up being a lot better in hindsight after reading a few additional essays and thoughtful reviews on the short, to help me get a clearer picture in my head. I have to say, also, for an experimental film from the 1940s, this was surprisingly competently made. You may not understand a single thing of what you’re watching, but I did at least appreciate the mise en scene and editing; even if the film is incomprehensible to most. The version I saw had a score done by Teiji Ito, which was added in 1959, and the score somehow helped the film along a little better than it otherwise would have; though now that I think about it, without the score the film would have just been a cement wall of a picture, so maybe I’m more thankful for the score than I thought I was.
Brace yourselves, because I’m going to say something that, going into this film, I could never have imagined I would actually say: I kinda liked this film. It was surrealism, absolutely, but it wasn’t completely senseless and random. I may not have understood it my first time through, but for once, I’m actually entertaining the thought of seeing it perhaps a couple more times, to try and see if I can clear some of the muddiness for myself. I can’t guarantee that everyone who goes into this will end up liking it, and even fewer I believe will understand it, but this was one that at the very least, made me think, rather than just not even trying to understand in the first place and throwing my hands in the air. It’s that alone that’s made me attest to myself that this deserves to be on the list; even if you hate surrealism… well, on second thought, if you hate surrealism, you probably should stay away from this one anyway. I probably shouldn’t mince words. Everyone else, though, or more open-minded people, give this a try.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10